Zulgad: Getting out of this mess makes Jim Thome one of the lucky ones
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Thome has been described as one of the nicest guys in baseball, but by Thursday afternoon, even his patience appeared to have run out.
In the aftermath of an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, and with trade rumors flying, Thome was asked a simple question.
Is your goal to remain in Minnesota?
"I don't want to get into all that," Thome said, sounding as curt as he probably has the ability to sound. "I don't want to comment on any of that. That's unfair right now, so have a great day. Thank you."
Thome then disappeared from in front of his locker and from Minnesota.
Reports swirled shortly thereafter that Thome had waived his no-trade clause after being claimed on waivers by Cleveland and was headed back to play for the franchise where he started his big-league career. The deal, for a player to be named, was done by 9 p.m.
The Indians have fallen to 63-64 and are 6½ games behind Detroit in the American League Central Division. But Thome's mood should be much improved by the time he arrives in Ohio.
He's one of the lucky ones.
The other possibly lucky one would be right fielder Jason Kubel, who was claimed off waivers by the White Sox but is unlikely to be traded by Friday because the Twins' asking price reportedly is too high.
In other words, Kubel is probably stuck in this mess that has become the Twins' 2011 season.
It's remarkable how much the Twins year resembles that of what happened to the Minnesota Vikings this past winter.
Both teams had big expectations, and both absolutely fell apart to the point the overwhelming feeling surrounding the team on the field -- as well as in the locker room -- is anxiousness to simply get this over as soon as possible.
"I've never even in the minor leagues been a part of something like this," Kubel said. "So, it's frustrating. It's tough."
It seems downright exhausting.
Former Twins great Tony Oliva entered the clubhouse before Thursday's game, observed the few players in the room and announced, "It's too quiet here. I want to hear some noise."
There was little response.
The Twins then went out and lost 6-1 to an Orioles team that entered the four-game series at Target Field with the worst record in American League and left still holding the worst record in the AL. Baltimore outscored the Twins 24-4.
"It's tough," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "(In) '05, obviously we didn't have a great year, but nothing like this. Not in the 10 years I've been here."
The Twins have not scored more than one run in their past five games and are 5-17 in August. They are 20 games under .500 at 55-75 and in jeopardy of being overtaken by last-place Kansas City if this ineptitude continues.
"They're all trying, but obviously, there's a lot of stuff going on on the sidebars," Gardenhire said. "All this waiver stuff and all that. But really, once you get between the lines, you just play baseball, and we're not just doing it very good right now.
"There is definitely a lot of stuff floating around it's been pretty frustrating. Guys are frustrated and they're trying to win."
They aren't coming close.
There is no ignoring the fact that the Twins have had 17 players take 24 trips to the disabled list this season. The latest will be left-hander Francisco Liriano, who departed Thursday's start after only two innings because of a shoulder strain and will join fellow starters Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker on the DL.
While the injuries are an issue, there also is a weird dynamic at play here involving any potential leadership on this club -- and those who are playing through pain and those who aren't.
This was never more apparent than Thursday. Cuddyer, who will be a free agent after this season, walked into Gardenhire's office in the morning and informed the manager he wanted to get in the batting cage and see if he could swing.
Never mind that Cuddyer had yet to learn whether an MRI showed if he had broken his left wrist when hit by a pitch the night before.
"I'm not going to hurt it anymore if it's already broken," Cuddyer recalled telling Gardenhire. "I said, 'Let me go down there, see how it feels and once the result comes back, if it comes out good, I'm in.'"
The result did come back negative, and Cuddyer played through the pain and started in right field. He did it because he knew his team already was shorthanded and needed him even at far less than 100 percent.
Meanwhile, Cuddyer's teammate, Joe Mauer, was held out because of neck spasms that began on Tuesday night when he was going back for a fly ball behind first base. (Yes, Mauer can get hurt playing first, too.)
"Joe has to be available. I only have one other catcher," Gardenhire said before the game. "If something happens to Drew (Butera), I told Joe, 'You have to go in the game, we have no other choice.' He says he thinks he can do that.'"
Mauer has played in only 70 of the Twins' 130 games this season, and it has become somewhat clichéd to criticize him for this. Nonetheless, there is no way Cuddyer should have played on Thursday either.
The disturbing thing for the Twins is that while this season is a lost cause, the leaders of this team should be trying to set the tone for 2012. Considering Cuddyer might be gone and Mauer is signed through 2018 for an average of $23 million per season, one would hope it would be the latter and not the former trying to set the example.
"I think you ask anybody in here, anybody in this organization, they'll tell you different," Mauer said when asked about the perception that he is soft. " ... People know in here how tough I am. I come to the park ready to play. (Thursday), I just physically, I couldn't get out there."
Wonder how Cuddyer felt when he heard that?
Perhaps, like getting on the same plane as Thome.